We got up so early that even rosters could envy us. After about two-hour drive, the sleeping sky is still awakening and unwillingly intends to start a severe battle with the frowning clouds. Soon, the Sun comes to its assistance, shy to appear behind the mountain ridge, somewhere far away, letting the mist rule for another minute or two. While we are witnessing the birth of another day, the big star has already governed the firmament, hugging with its gleaming rays the hills, vast pastures, thick forests and waters, spawned in South-western Serbia by nature. And the nature was generous and imaginative.
11 reasons to visit Uvac and Pešter
Why visit Uvac and Pešter
1. Because Uvac is a unique jewel of nature
From a little-known and a bit neglected spot, to the pearl that provokes sighs and steals the glazes of the entire planet. It has broken through and become maybe the most recognizable trademark of Serbia. Special reserve of nature Uvac, surrounded by the Zlatar, Murtenica i Čemernica mountaines, stretches over the area of around 7,500 hectares, involving Uvačko (Sjeničko) Zlatarsko and Radoinjsko lake. The area is rich in caves under Ušac cave system, and it is the habitat of about 130 species of birds, 24 species of fish and more than 200 plants. The unique quality are the steep meanders of canyon valley of the Uvac river.
2. Because the meandering is remembered forever
Sailing along the winding course of Uvac is simply unavoidable. You can rent a kayak and cruise as much as you want, for your soul, or board some boats, which depart from several places; it does not matter which one you choose. A talkative and funny guard (ranger) and a friendly “crew” will certainly complete the entertainment. We are listening about the secrets of this magically sculpted corner and the various adventures of previous visitors. That is when we reach the Ice cave, which is closed unfortunately, due to epidemiological circumstances and to numerous bats, whose home this cave is, as the guard informs us. They say that it is rich in cave jewellery, draperies and so-called ‘bigren’ tubs, and that the temperature in it does not change – it is eight degrees in summer and winter. More reason to return to Uvac. To comfort us a little, the ranger agrees and gives us free time to shave and take pictures.
On the way back, we hear legends about Devojačka Stena (Maiden’s Rock) and Nemanjić grad, when someone from the ship’s crew exclaims: “There they are“, and everyone, as upon command, pokes their heads under the awning, their eyes fixed on the sky.
3. Because the master sky is owned by a mighty eagle
The Serbian coat of arms is guarded by a crusading eagle, and its brother, the griffon vulture, guards the Uvac arch. The vulture eagle, the irreplaceable role of a natural (pre) cleaner, feeds exclusively on dead animals and thus prevents the spread of infection. Powerful flyer, with wingspan up to three meters. What a heavenly dance! Sovereign, unrestrained, flawless. It has been researched by scientists and its features applied to aircrafts. It was on the verge of extinction, but thanks to good and dedicated people, it received shelter and the necessary care, and today about 500 individuals live in the reserve, in one of the largest colonies in Europe. Its survival has also been helped by special units from the city of Niš, the guard reveals to us.
It has found its peace by the water, at the suitable elevation, among the Uvac rocks, in the cracks of which it nests. The female lays only one egg, on which both parents lay for 53 to 57 days. The hatched cub is fed from the parent’s beak and prepares for its first flight for a long time, up to 130 days. They are very attached to their family and faithful for life – in case of losing a partner, they never mate again. What a unique outgrowth of life!
4. Because “only on the top you realise the purpose“
Honestly, first you realize that you have suffered, no matter whether you have walked or rode on a macadam road, which can only be overcome by SUV. The purpose is realized when one arrives at the wooden platform, to the lookout Molitva, from where the landscape is observed as from a bird’s eye view. You seem to be on the roof of the world. Hills and valleys, forests and meadows alternate, indefinitely. At the foot bellow is the magical gorge of Uvac. How that mighty water had cut its bed through the steep cliffs of the limestone rocks. A feeling of peace, but also of pride, because it is a piece of our homeland.
There are a couple of other lookouts that offer an equally magnificent view. If you are in good shape and trust your legs, you can embark on a walking adventure, if you are not, we suggest drive by jeeps.
5. Because Pešter horse is a friend, but also the fastest transport
On the way to Pešter, we saw an unusual sight – a harmonious group riding through a golden field. We stopped and waved. The girl in her teenage days, with a wide smile on her face and sparkling eyes, immediately stopped her galloping horse and approached happily. She rides him unsaddled, accompanied by a two-month-old foal and a small puppy that lags behind but never gives up. She says that she grew up with this four-legged Grace, she sees it as a friend, but also the safest and fastest transportation means, since it walks where wheels are unable to. She went to her sister to buy a birthday present, she said, greeted us and rode off at her beauty. Well, enjoy in light trot, cheerful girl!
6. Because Pešter is both – Sybiria and Tibet in one
It settled behind seven mountains and hills as the largest plateau in the Balkans, where the hills allowed the dry land to stretch and the wind to play, where hundreds of sheep almost keep up with the young shepherd, and horses and cows graze peacefully, ignoring the visitors. albeit rare. This is their kingdom, unchallengeable.
Picturesque, scenic and pastoral landscape, almost unreal. A kind of inspiration for photographers and cinematographers. And for the others? Pešter should be watched with the soul and absorbed with heart, the eye is just a pleasing tool. Nature in its original form; here and there some settlements. In the distance, it is as if the Sky kisses the Earth, but it is only an illusion of this cruel, but at the same time tame space. On a sunny, hot and almost windless day, it is hard to imagine that it may be covered by heavy snow as soon as in October and that the winters are long, harsh and icy. Mercury in the thermometer drops to 39.8 below zero. That is how he got the nickname Serbian Siberia. Due to historically significant sites and mysterious ruins, it is also called Serbian Tibet.
7. Because the dragon fell on Pešter
A legend says that the entire Pešter highland once was covered with high waters, a lake in which tree-headed dragon lived. Orthodox people believe that it had been killed by St. George, and Muslims, by Alija Djerzelez. Whosoever murdered the beast, he has a hand of gold. Many surrounding villages are called after this legend – wounded dragon cut the forest in today’s Krnja Jela; the entire mountain Ninaja swayed, and the place where it fell in the water, was given the name Braćak. From one-time huge lake, today we have only a tiny Pester lake, near the village Karajukića Bunari (wells).
Legend has it that the entire Peshterska plateau was once covered with great water, a lake, in which a three-headed dragon lived. Orthodox believe that she was killed by Saint George, and Muslims, Alija Jerzelez. Whose hand murdered the monster, it was golden anyway. Many surrounding places are named after this legend – the wounded, the dragon cut the forest in today’s Krnja Jela with its tail, the whole mountain Ninaja has been drowned since its summer, and Braćak was formed at the place where it fell (“braćaknula”). From the once strong lake, today only the tiny Pester Lake remains, near the place Karajukića Bunari (Karajukica wells).
8. Because the heart of Pešter is huge
With heavy hearts, we prepare to move on, when there a car appears. A middle-aged gentleman comes out, offers us help. His birth house is on the top of a nearby hill, he grew up there. Life has taken him far away, but he always gladly returns to Peshter. It tells us about its locals, charms and cruelties. He demands that we stop at his home, to please and thrill his parents. We set off on Pešter safari, up the hill, nothing like a road, following the trail of his experienced tires. Once a real Pešter-style house, now it is extended and renovated. They welcomed us as their dearest relatives. “I want you to feel at home and sleep over,” the head of the family tells us, while his daughter-in-law and mother were running around to serve coffee, juice, fruit, and gingerbread. It did not take long for the daughter-in-law to start making cheese pie dough, a rolled pie. The host invited us to stay and share the meal, but we politely thanked him, because we have to move on. Religions are different, but the customs are the same – welcoming.
In return, we have no escort, although a good host has offered it. As we carefully try to avoid a swamp trap or a deeper ravine, contentedly, a little jokingly and more in reality, we say, “Someone must be secretly throwing water behind us when we set out.” Because, everyone brought us at least one new, dear acquaintance, and this acquaintance with Pešter, gave us much more. We do not segregate by religion, nation or colour, only by people and the other ones. Especially those of us who share the same destiny under a common piece of heaven. On the plateau under the hill, we meet a couple more cars, passengers; all of them greet us and gave us a smile. Thank you, our cordial Pešter people, here we come again, as soon as the winter passes.
9. Because without Sjenica cheese you will not have peace
We wander around the city a bit, when hunger strikes # us. We sadly remember the Pešter pies that we gave up so lightly, but we are not concerned. If Sjenica is famous for something, except for thick minus temperatures, then it is undoubtedly cheese, but its meat as well.
The Valley of the Wolves restaurant stands out with its special, ethno, and slightly ornate interior – from the stuffed wolf, to various antiques studded everywhere. Arm yourself with patience because the waiter, the only one in here, cannot serve all the tables very quickly. Moreover, by no means do you leave in the late evening, because the choice is quite narrow then. But everything is quickly forgotten when the snacks (“meze”) arrives – Sjenica cheese, sudzuk sausage and kajmak (kaymak). All home-made, all from Pešter, of top quality. We recommend veal liver, grilled veal or Sjenica-style steak. Kebabs – “ćevapi” are ordered in pieces, so you can dose them, and roasting lamb and veal is always a great choice in these parts. Try to leave at least a little space for baklava, it is worth it. In the morning, a thick yogurt – specialty made from sheep milk – “jardum” is served with buckwheat pie. Never leave the coldest city in Serbia without visiting a bakery – “mantije” (mantles pie) is waiting for you, always hot and juicy.
10. Because Drive Cafe coffee hides its beauties too
It is a long way home; it always takes a while. We should refuel our vehicle be, but also refresh ourselves. So we stop at the Nova Varoš petrol station for a sip of a black beverage or a refreshment with cold Drive Cafe Ice coffee – it will be great on this hot day. It comes in two flavours, both of them unique.
Of course, passionate coffee drinkers reach for Drive Cafe coffee. Cups that are in three different sizes, all of them “patriotic”, celebrate the natural beauties of Serbia. We inadvertently choose a medium size, understandably – evokes the meander of the river Uvac. Taste is original, Italian, and the packaging, homemade, full of great memories. The perfect combination for our return trip.
11. Because you will be “goldsmithing” on your return trip
And when you already are in Nova Varoš, it is a sin not to stop by the Zlatar mounting and eat kajmak, prosciutto and warm lamb, and then fry the calories by walking through the dense Zlatar forests. Along the way is Zlatar Lake, greenish-blue, clean, irresistible. You could also freshen up. And since true “goldsmithing” requires a multi-day stay, we will explore in its fairytale’s look, but also the magnificence of one of the most important Orthodox shrines, in the next “ride” on the road with us.